Interview w/ Reelika Raspel
Reelika is a very talented and inspiring photographer who is slowly turning her passion into a career. I met Reelika in spring of 2018 during a Surf & Yoga Retreat in Portugal. She quickly became a close friend and now inspires me on a daily basis. Reelika originally grew up in Estonia. She then followed her heart and left her home country to live in the mountains. But it wasn’t always easy. Here she shares her story on how she got where she is today, how she overcame challenges and where she sees herself in the future.
1. When did you know that you are different?
When I was about 16 years old I told my mam that I wanted a snowboard (very unusual in Estonia as it is flat as a pancake!) and she answered: “Dear, normal girls don’t have a snowboard”.
Mostly I hung out with boys of the skating scene where we’d meet up every Wednesday at 6 am, squeezed in a bus and head up the hills to hit some slopes (nothing compared to the mountains in Switzerland but hey – I’d take any hill to get that feeling of freedom). I was always the only girl who seemed interested in field trips like that – so I pretty much grew up with male friends only.
2. What was your dream back then?
I was very inspired by American actors with Estonian roots. I’d watch TV shows that showed mountain retreats and soon after I had the vision of living IN the mountains myself and work there. I didn’t know what kind of job I’d wanted to do but was very fascinated by the beautiful nature and the vibes of people living and working there.
3. What steps did you first take and what decisions were you facing back then?
I knew that I wanted to have a gap year after high school because I wasn’t really interested in University. Pretty much after the vision of working in the mountains appeared for the first time I knew that one day I’d live that dream.
Shortly before I graduated from High school I, together with my best friend, searched for jobs all around Europe and even North America to work in the mountains. We fought for jobs for more than 6 months. In the meantime, I worked in different jobs such as strawberry picking, shop assistant, waitress, etc. At the end of Autumn (around October/November), I’d still not have found a job and started working at a sports store. I pretty much gave up on my dream because I saw other girls putting in more effort applying for jobs and still didn’t get one. I thought if they wouldn’t even get one it’s impossible for me so I kind of gave up.
But then, after hundreds of applications my best friend got her hands on a position where they’d take two people at the same time. It was a job in the French part of Switzerland – in the midst of the mountains. We worked at a kids ski camp and cleaned their rooms etc.
The biggest decision I had to make was not to go to University. Even though my grandma and my dad wanted me to go I was very certain about my decision. Generally, my whole family was very supportive though.
4. How did your life change after that and where did your story lead you?
Well, after that first job in the French Alps everything else kind of started to roll.
It didn’t all go smooth and easy though. After that first season, I had to go back to Estonia because I couldn’t legally work in Switzerland anymore. I started to study Recreation Management (Freizeit- und Erholungsmanagement), worked at the sports store again and organized different sorts of events.
Right after graduation I flew to Cyprus for the summer season and worked as a waitress. It was a great time with lots of fun and even more sweaty work shifts. From there I randomly sent emails to Austrian and Swiss mountain resorts to get a job for the winter. I found one in Laax GR (Switzerland) and washed dishes all winter long.
The following summer season I spent in the USA working with kids again. After coming back I knew I had to learn German asap so that I can get a better job. I spent months listening to other people speaking, TV shows and the Radio. I barely spoke a word but soon picked up some Swiss German. I decided that I wanted to be a snowboard teacher the following season so I promised myself to learn German all summer long. I moved to Andermatt (a small village in the Swiss mountains) all by myself and worked as a waitress in a tiny but friendly Guesthouse. I purposely went there alone so I wasn’t attempted to speak any English. As the new winter season finally arrived I struggled really hard to understand Swiss German because all I spoke until then was High German (due to my Co-worker who was German!).
Once again I went to the US over the summer and came back for a new winter season to work as a snowboard teacher. Over the course of 6 years, I then stayed in Laax and lived my dream. During summer I always worked in the service industry to earn some money and in winter I’d teach in the snow! It was great.
This is my first year away from the mountain but I feel very good. I grew a lot, learned a ton and am happy where it brought me. It gave me the confidence and trust to go after my dreams and never give up. When it comes to goal settings I’m all about dreaming big! The sky is the limit – literally! If you can dream it – you can achieve it.
5. What challenges are you currently facing?
Working different waitress jobs at the same time, getting paid by the hour and at the same time trying photography as a business has been quite challenging. I got into photography a few years ago when I sold self-made bracelets online. I needed good photos for social media and the website so I started taking my own ‘business’-photos.
To find hours to get paid work and at the same time getting photography offers is a real act of balance. It definitely keeps me on my toes. Luckily I’m good at surviving on a very little budget.
6. What motivates and inspires you?
The fact that every day is a new chance to grow! I see the challenges but they are not overwhelming. I’m constantly on the edge of my comfort zone and that keeps me up! I hate routine because it brings expectations with it. And expectations ruin your flow.
People like Peter McKinnen, Sorelle Amore and myself. The past has shown me that everything is possible.
Books like ‘Your Own Magic’, ‘Friendship with God’ and ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’.
7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I’ll be a very successful freelancer. I’ll have an income from multiple streams such as workshops, photography, spiritual connections. I want to inspire and motivate younger peeps to write those fucking 500 emails to get what they want. Don’t settle for any less than your craziest dreams!
I will have a successful business with Ladina as a partner in which we will do cool projects. I want to help and connect with people spiritually and get them out of their low-energy-bubble. There is so much more in life and people need to know and believe that themselves. Money always does and always will come.
8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’ll still be very successful with my career but by then I will have found a good balance between work and family time. I’ll have a house with a garden and a forest around.
Everything I do I WANT to do - It’s my fucking choice!
Reelika is amazing at taking beautiful photos and capturing those special moments. With her determination and truly believes in herself she has achieved a lot already and I’m sure she is only getting more and more successful. As much as Reelika, I am too, a huge believer in the law of attraction and the ability of your mindset. “If you can dream it you can do it”.
Thanks, Reelika for your inspiring story. I wish you the greatest of success!